Former Republican Assemblyman Francis Blee weighed in on the state’s political climate, telling NJ Today Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor his views on the university merger, Gov. Chris Christie’s leadership, the legislature and the upcoming Republican National Convention.
Christie signed the university merger bill today. Blee said at least two or three other proposals were brought forward during his time in the legislature but never came to fruition. “Hopefully if things go according to plan, it will open up Rutgers to bring in additional dollars in terms of research,” he said. “It’ll do the same hopefully in the southern portion of the state through the Rutgers and Rowan partnership.”
Blee said he is hopeful that the plan will strengthen the higher education system and bring additional money to the state, particularly in the area of research. He also said it has the potential to bring meaningful jobs to the state.
When asked about Christie’s leadership, Blee said, “From a stylistic standpoint, I don’t think we’ve ever had a governor quite like Gov. Christie. He’s very direct. There’s no confusion in terms of where he stands on issues.”
While Christie can be strong willed, Blee said he has the ability to reach across the aisle to work with Democrats. He said he can be forceful but “also pragmatic enough to know that you can’t get it all done yourself and he’s willing to compromise when the stakes are high.”
Blee said the legislature as a whole has done a good job in moving forward while others have been remained at a standstill because of partisan politics. “If you look to Washington D.C., we’ve had an awful lot of gridlock for the last few years. In New Jersey on big issues they’ve been able to compromise,” he said. “So I really tip my hat to the leadership in both the Assembly and the Senate, both Democrats and Republicans in terms of when the issues really mattered, they’ve been able to put egos aside and craft a compromise that hopefully will be good for all New Jerseyans.”
While politicians have been able to compromise on certain issues, the economy has been a topic of contention. “There are some philosophical differences between Democrats and Republicans,” Blee said. “Both sides are fighting for what they believe in and at the end of the day, I think in order for good measures to move forward there’s gotta be compromise but I think in the next year or so hopefully they’ll be able to get some things done, bring those philosophies together and move forward.”
Blee said it might be difficult to avoid partisan politics in New Jersey in the next year, however, because there will be a gubernatorial race and all 120 seats are up in the legislature.
When asked about Christie being chosen as the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention and not the vice presidential nominee, Blee said he’s happy Christie will remain as governor for at least another year, adding that giving that address is a high compliment for the governor.
“Clearly he states exactly what he believes in and as a result of that direct interaction he’s had both at the local level, throughout the state and even on the national level, he was chosen for the highest possible honor at the Republican convention other than being vice president,” Blee said.